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During his State of the Union Address, Bush echoed those sentiments when he said the events of September 11th would motivate Americans to foster a "culture of responsibility." These phrases euphemistically summarize the core assumptions of conservative philosophy: that people deserve their lot in life, period. To a Republican, if you can't afford college or decent health care it's because you're lazy.
This is what Bush means when he uses the word "responsibility."
How ironic that the Republican party must rely on this particular man to deliver such a message? Bush, after all, is living, breathing proof of how our ostensibly "free market" often bestows enormous rewards on individuals based on serendipity alone. Even the most simple of glances at his biography reveals that when life has dealt George Bush lemons, he was given lemonade factories.
George W. Bush was born a white, Protestant male in the United States of America, a demographic distinction that promises a higher quality of life than 90% of the world's population will ever enjoy. Additionally, he was born into a wealthy family with extraordinary political connections. Bush's grandfather had been a U.S. Senator, and his father was President of the United States.
Despite low test scores, Bush was granted admission to Phillips Academy in Andover, Maryland, the most selective boarding school in the nation. Once there, he honored the opportunity his parents gave him by earning mostly C's and D's. In his junior year, Bush took the SAT and scored an 1120, a score with which most people might have hoped to get into a community college. Bush, of course, was admitted to Yale, and his parents picked up the tab.
At Yale, Bush rarely went to class, opting instead to spend his time partying. His grades were abysmal and his senior year he took every class pass/fail. Bush was then magically admitted to Harvard Business School, the most prestigious business school in the country. His parents again paid tuition.
It was around this time that Bush decided he'd like to be President of the United States one day. So, after he started Bush Exploration Oil & Gas, which he promptly ran into the ground. In 1994, surname in hand, he ran for governor of Texas. Bush had no political experience and had to be tutored how Texas government worked while he campaigned. Using money donated from his father's friends, he won the election by a few percentage points. As governor, Bush soon gained a reputation for "delegating." While his underlings ran the state, Bush worked five hour days and went home for two hours at lunch to nap and play Nintendo.
In 2000, George W. Bush ran for President of the United States. Before any one had even heard Bush speak, he was polling ahead of Al Gore. The public knew only that he was the son of the former president and that he called himself a "compassionate conservative," which the public interpreted to mean a "moderate Republican." Shocking Republican party officials, Bush turned out to be a mediocre candidate. Those who heard him speak found him overly scripted and unintelligent. Somehow, though, Bush managed to gain almost as many votes as his unlikable and politically inept opponent, Al Gore. He lost the national popular vote and more Florida voters went to the polls intending to vote for Gore, but Bush won the presidency anyway.
Once elected, Bush garnered high approval ratings, but his numbers soon began to slide. The public, overwhelmingly supportive of Clinton-era polices, were jolted by the unexpectedly conservative slant of many of his early initiatives. Following an unpopular tax-cut geared toward the rich, attempts to roll back environmental regulations, a series of anti-choice policies, and an almost knee-jerk tendency to favor corporate preferences over individual rights, Bush started to seem less like a warm, fuzzy moderate and more like a true-blue right winger hiding in a teddy bear costume.
Just as Bush was coming into focus, September 11th happened and everything changed. Overnight, blind patriotism translated into blanket support. Bush had been on track to receive much deserved blame for the recessing economy and a return to deficient spending, both of which he can now blame on the terrorist attacks. Bush has also cunningly repackaged his pre-9/11 agenda as policies needed to fight the "War on Terrorism." Drilling for oil in Alaskan Wildlife Refuge, corporate tax cuts, and monstrous increases in military spending are now supposed to somehow stop people from hijacking planes.
There's an old German proverb that "Luck sometimes visits a fool, but it never sits down with him." Yet, when a man whose intellect and work ethic qualify him to be little more than a used-car dealer becomes President of the United States, one wonders how long this particular visit will last. Until it ends, however, lower and middle-income Americans will have to contend with Bush's ex-cathedra admonitions to stop being so lazy and take "personal responsibility" for their lives. Considering the messenger, I advise my fellow citizens to treat such language with the respect it deserves and to wait for luck to leave this fool alone. SEE ALSO: www.commondreams.org/views06/0830-21.htm
Jonathan Stahler was an Opinion Editor at Washington University in St. Louis' Student Life newspaper, and a contributor-at-large for LAS magazine. He was once accused of being bigoted towards Christians, but we are sure that is not the case.
See other articles by Jonathan Stahler.
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